At first glance, selling your car can seem like a fairly straightforward process. Take pictures of your car, list it on the site of your choice, sit back and watch the offers flood in, right? Not so much. If you have ever been on the other side of the equation — buying a used car — you already have a leg up because you know what an astute buyer will be looking for. But even for an experienced seller, a little oversight can have a huge effect on how much money your car eventually goes for.
Matt DeLorenzo — a veteran of the automotive industry who saw time at Road and Track, Automotive News, was editor at Autoweek and is currently managing editor at Kelley Blue Book — divulged for us a few basic but essential ways to make sure you maximize profit when selling your car. They might seem fairly obvious, but paying more attention to these key aspects can lead to more money in your pocket, making the whole process much more rewarding.
1Get your car detailed. This is especially important if you’re looking to sell your daily driver. “You don’t realize how much dirt and junk accumulates that you get used to,” says DeLorenzo, “but it’s important to make sure you’re putting the best foot forward, whether you’re going to sell it to a private party or trade it in.” When you’re in the driver’s seat day after day, you generally only notice problems with things you constantly interact with: the wear on the seats or steering wheel, the dimming lights on the console or how you have to jiggle your phone charger in the 12V socket just right to get it to work.
You might not notice all the loose change, food wrappers, dirt and sand that now populates the back seat and passenger footwell. “A smart buyer will have the car inspected and they’re going to be looking in places that you may not be looking at when you’re trying to sell.” Getting your car professionally detailed will ensure all the neglected nooks and crannies of your car are scrubbed clean. Remember, the devil is in the details.
2Provide a detailed history. “Make sure you have documentation to show any work that’s been done on your car,” says DeLorenzo. “Make sure you have addressed existing recalls. If there is something you don’t know about your car, someone can easily find that out, and that puts you at a disadvantage in the negotiation.” When an accident or work on the car isn’t upfront, it doesn’t look like innocent negligence; it looks shady. So the more detailed the service history, the more it shows that you’ve been maintaining the car. Being upfront with any accidents and maintenance just makes you look like an honest person from the get-go.
3Determine your car’s worth. This may sound like the most obvious tip before selling a car, but it’s also the most important. “Depending on where you’re selling your car,” says DeLorenzo, “you can get various values for it — what it goes for on the private market, or what it would be if a dealer took in trade.” Kelley Blue Book has an online appraisal system that can determine the price based on inputs like the year, make, model, mileage and condition of your car. Knowing what your car is actually worth is a great tool you can use as baseline, and that goes for whether you decide to sell to as a private party or through a respectable site like Bring a Trailer, eBay Motors or Kelly Blue Book.
4Look at your replacement options. “Once you establish what your car is worth,” says DeLorenzo, “take a look at your options and how you’ll be replacing that car, in terms of best value. You might want to lease a car and not use all the money you made and bank some of it or you can use that money as a down payment. You have an asset in knowing that value, so you can better decide what to do next.”
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